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Thursday, May 26, 2022

It's Been So Long

It's been so very long since I have sat down to my computer and updated life here in my little corner of the world.  The last 2 years have been difficult, but we've made it through together.

I'll begin by sharing that in December 2020, I underwent major spinal surgery.  The pain had become unbearable and debilitating, and the sacroiliac and facet joint injections that I received every 3 months for the prior 10 years were no longer giving me the relief I needed.  They did, however, cause me to gain a lot of weight, which was placing more stress on my lower spine.  Surgery was the only alternative.  On December 15th, 2020, I went into surgery optimistic that once done, I would be okay, I would heal in a matter of months, and my life would be considerably better. 


Unfortunately, God had other plans for me, beginning with the recovery room.  I was waking up, but my blood pressure was so low they could not administer pain meds.  My surgeon called Bob and told him he did not know if I would make it out of this.  Bob was waiting in the hospital.  The surgeon explained that they were doing all they could, but they were having difficulty.  If they gave me pain meds, it would lower my blood pressure more than it already was, and that would not be good.  Bob recommended giving me Ativan to calm me from the anxiety of the pain.  They said they would try.  It worked, and they were able to give me pain meds and stabilize my blood pressure.  Scary moments.


We had already celebrated an early Christmas with family, so getting home by Christmas day was not my focus.  Healing was my focus.  As it turned out, my surgeon wanted me home by Christmas.  It is my understanding that I was not supposed to be released from the hospital until the bag that drains the excess fluid from around my spine is less than 30cc.  I was sent home with a drainage of 150cc still draining from my spine.  They removed the drainage tube, placed me in heavy bandages, and sent me home, barely able to walk.


Bob and our boys had built me a ramp into the back of our home.  I was so surprised - and relieved! as I was walking very slowly and painfully with a walker and my Big Bear's assistance.


Within a few days of getting home, not only was the drainage becoming more pronounced, but the pain was so unbearable I thought I would go into shock.  I stuck it out.  I cried.  I hollered in pain.  It was brutal.  I was on a medical bed that was in our family room.  I was unable to use the stairs.  On January 17th, I was taken to the hospital by ambulance.  My surgeon had to perform emergency surgery on me.  I had developed a serious spinal infection.  So they put me to sleep and I woke up having had everything done all over again, including removing a screw that had gotten lost in my body during the first surgery and had moved its way up to the top of my spine.  My surgeon and his team removed every rod, screw, and device, and re-sterilized them all, they did what they had to do to prepare my spine, and replaced it all again.  And again, I was in the hospital for 8 days.  Still having difficulty walking, I was sent home, and this time they were confident that they had taken care of the infection and I was good to go. 


Back on the homefront, I was having far more difficulty walking, breathing, moving, and sleeping.  The pain, again, was even more unbearable than after the first surgery.


After 2 days at home, I could not sit up without help and without screaming in pain.  I lost my ability to walk.  January 29, 2021, the EMTs were called again.  I was in so much pain I thought The green Hulk was ripping my spine open and having a war in my body. I was ready to die.  Literally.  I could not take it anymore.  Needless to say, I was placed on a gurney at 2am, and didn't even realize what was going on.  I just wanted it all to end.  The next thing I recall is that I woke up with nurses and my surgeon standing over me telling me that I had had surgery again.  You see, the infection had become so chronic, I had been leaking spinal fluid for over a week. 


As it turned out, I had a leak above the surgical area and my surgeon plugged it up with a screw, then, again, they removed all the hardware, sterilized everything, and replaced it all over again.  My surgeon was not hopeful I would survive all this surgery and all that had happened, and warned Bob to prepare for the worst possible outcome.  My demise. 


Well, I didn't die, obviously, but I must say it was the worst possible pain and recovery.  I could not imagine, or possibly explain how brutal the pain.  I could give birth to all my children at one time with no medication at all, and it would not have been as mind blowing painful as this.  I was released from the hospital just before Valentine's day.


I was barely walking.  Physical therapy was brutal. Three weeks since my last surgery, in physical therapy, my blood pressure crashed.  I turned white.  My physical therapist called an ambulance.  One of the EMTs said I was so white I already looked like I had passed on, but he didn't tell me that until they had pumped me full of meds to raise my blood pressure in the back of the ambulance in the parking lot.  I recall lying on that gurney, with 2 EMTs working feverishly on me, and I was looking out the back of the ambulance.  I could see Bob in his truck behind the ambulance.  I thought "Well, this is it I guess, this is how I leave this earth."  Then I began to cry realizing I was leaving my husband and family behind and would never see them again.  I got so upset with that thought, that the next thing I hear is "BP is stabilizing, we can head to the hospital now." 


They watched over me in the ER for about 8 hours and then I was able to go home.  Thank God.

I never did go back to physical therapy, but what I did have to do was go to an infusion center at the hospital every day for 6 weeks for an infusion of heavy-hitter antibiotics in a pik line in my arm.  I started getting the infusions immediately after returning home from my 3rd surgery.  When I started going to the infusion center, Bob had to help me walk with a walker, carefully, into the center.  I was barely able to walk, barely able to hold myself up with my arms, and I needed assistance to sit as well.  I was a mess.  Each week I was a little bit better.  By the end of the six weeks, I was walking gingerly without the walker, using a cane, and was feeling better.  I was healing.


But, all this trauma didn't come without consequences.  I have to take an antibiotic twice a day for the rest of my life.  I am also on additional medications I was not prepared for.  However, I am not in as much pain now as I was before these surgeries.  I just wish the experience had not been so life altering, so intense, so frightening, for myself and my family. PTSD is a real thing.


Sadly, my mother's health declined during those two months I was having these 3 surgeries.  Her worry got the best of her.  I could see how she had declined and become more frail once I was able to focus on something other than the pain and the consequences of this life changing experience.  I tried to rally her and let her know I would be okay, and for a couple months I thought she was doing better, but then she declined more and I needed help at home taking care of her.  Nursing help for Mom was there for me for a bit, but then I had to make the decision for Mom to go into an assisted living home.  She had a great roommate, and everything was going well for about 5 weeks, when my mother woke up having had a major stroke.  We raced to the hospital where they had transported her.  They didn't think she would make it through 24 hours.  She lived another month. 


My mother, Mary Elizabeth Simms, passed away on January 14th, 2022, at the age of 97.  She had lived with me and my family for 24 years.  The best years of my life.  She was my best friend.  I could talk to her about anything.  We shared a lot in this life.  I miss her terribly and know that she lives on in me.  I am so grateful that I was able to care for her and be there for her all those years.  I am so grateful I had a husband who supported the decision for her to live with us.  My children grew up with their grandmother always being there, so this was difficult for them as well.  I can still hear her voice, her laughter, her advice, in my heart. 


Life throws us curve balls.  I'm not sure they are all intended to make us stronger, although some do just that.  Trust in the Lord to get you through the challenges in life and the crosses we bear in this earthly form.  Faith was my guiding light during these past 2 years, and faith carries me through every day. 


May your days be blessed.  May you be healthy.  May you have family and friends who love you and care for you.  May you have shelter and comfort, and may you walk with the Lord every day of your life.  He will always get you through the crosses you bear in life. 





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